How Much do NFL Players Understand instructions in Their Earpieces?

With a purpose to better answer this question, my first port-of-call was neither the Internet nor the area library. It had been, in fact, my Dad.

Quite probably one of several UK’s biggest ‘American Football’ fans, my Father first discovered a love for the sport when I was just a little baby (I’m 28 this year). Getting up for nighttime feeds, nappy changes and so on, he found that the only thing on TV at that time of darkness was the NFL. Within a few months, he was an ardent fan (and I am unable to prove this, but he perhaps forced me awake just so he had an reason to travel downstairs and watch it). Within several years, he was an connoisseur.

Once I got this question, the time seemed right to make a quick call home.

“Well, all of them wear helmet receivers” he said, “that way the coach can call in the plays that they need the Quarterback to run. However” he went on, “the home crowd makes as much noise as they can so they can ensure it is hard for the visiting Quarterback to listen to” I hurriedly noted all this down on the number of dog-eared ‘Post-It’ notes, “Overall, I’m sure they could hear pretty well though” he concluded.

When I suggested the Quarterbacks would all use distinctive brands of earpiece, he suggested otherwise “No, it’ll all be one brand” he said assuredly. Following that, I put down the phone and headed out to the dark corners in the Web so as to find out just what this brand might be.

The NFL actually upgraded its earpieces last year, this indicates, replacing them with digital models after some teams complained that the signals were getting entailed with the ones from local pilots. As outlined by Taylor Bloom at,

“Ever since coaches and coordinators began using headsets in 1994 they have learned to put up with miscommunications during games. This explains why you sometimes see coaches on the sideline using hand signals to communicate plays to their quarterback”

A Lincoln, Nebraska-based manufacturer called Gubser & Schnakenberg LLC developed the up-to-date headsets, making special use of ‘push-to-talk’ capabilities. Since the new earphones are wholly digital, the Quarterbacks (and coaches) can now hear far better than ever before. 

As for that firm, well, I looked them up as well. Matt Olberding of the duo’s local news source, the Lincoln Journal Star says,


“Mark Gubser and Jamie Schnakenberg aren’t household names. You’ve probably never heard of their company — Gubser & Schnakenberg LLC, or GSC for short — either. But some very important people know them very well. People like Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. That’s because Gubser and Schnakenberg designed a digital system that starting this year replaced the National Football League’s old analog system allowing coaches on the sideline to talk to the quarterback and defensive players on the field”.

When asked regarding the difference between the new headsets and the old, Gubser said, “We moved them (the NFL) into the digital world and by doing this, we greatly improved the audio that goes out to the player”

But what do the experts think of these contemporary earpieces? San Francisco 49ers QB Alex Smith was some of the vocal opponents from the old system, saying, in an meeting with Associated Press that,

“You expect more when you come in as a rookie. You’re thinking this is going to be some crazy high-tech stuff and then you actually look in the helmet and it’s not.”

Most probably, Smith (the very first Draft Pick of 2005, I’m told) is far happier now.

Clearly, audio clarity is essential for the League’s Quarterbacks. As a rather-related postscript, Tim Tebow of the New York Jets launched his own line of earpieces (used for training, but not particularly for games) with Soul Electronics at this year’s CES trade show. He uses them, principally, to hear music whilst warming up (he’s a Sinatra fan, actually). Of these earphones, he claims,

“I was so interested in having something that was comfortable that I could go run around and practice in before games, I could wear it on the field”.

So, in deduction, since last year at least, I would say that my Father was right, the Quarterbacks hear things as good as these days.